Sabathia struggles, Boston takes first 2 after All Star break

New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia delivers against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning of a baseball game, Saturday, July 16, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

NEW YORK (AP) — After a slow start to their 10-game homestand, the New York Yankees know they need a quick turnaround.

Otherwise, they might end up rare sellers at the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

Before the biggest Yankee Stadium crowd this year, CC Sabathia allowed five or more runs for the fifth straight start, and New York dropped its second straight to the Boston Red Sox, 5-2 on Saturday.

The Yankees (44-46) are under .500 after the All-Star break for the first time since 1995. After opening 0-2 on this homestand, they head into their series finale vs. the Red Sox on Sunday night with the trajectory of their season possibly hanging in the balance.

“It’s got to turn around tomorrow,” manager Joe Girardi said. “This is probably as important (a) game that we’ve had in July in a long time, tomorrow.”

Sabathia (5-7) allowed five runs, four earned, in 5 1/3 innings. Boston chipped away at the big lefty by reaching base mostly on soft, well-placed contact and a couple of New York errors until a home run in the sixth by Sandy Leon.

“I felt good,” Sabathia said. “Just the result is not coming.”

Sabathia’s tough stretch follows a resurgent start to the season. The 35-year-old has allowed 27 runs in his past five starts after yielding just 18 over his first 11.

Sabathia gave up nine hits Saturday, including two slow rollers beyond the range of charging third baseman Chase Headley and a soft RBI single by Leon in the fourth.

“I have to stay focused and know that those plays can turn around,” Sabathia said. “They aren’t right now, and that’s just been what’s killing me so far.”

Leon drove in four runs and Eduardo Rodriguez again dominated the Yankees in his return from Triple-A while Boston won its season-high sixth straight.

Leon hit his second homer this season and the third of his career — a three-run shot for a 5-1 lead. The catcher has 13 RBIs in 20 games this season after compiling eight in 75 career games before that. He’s hitting .458 through 59 at-bats this season.

“He looks different now,” Rodriguez said. “He hits the ball everywhere.”

Leon also helped his Venezuelan countryman hold New York to a run and four hits over seven innings after the Red Sox recalled the left-hander from the minors Friday. Rodriguez (2-3) improved to 4-1 with a 2.01 ERA against Boston’s archrival.

“Frustrating,” Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner said. “Offensively we weren’t able to get a whole lot going against Rodriguez today.”

Koji Uehara closed for his sixth save.

Leon’s hot hitting has been timely for Boston, which has had catchers Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez and Ryan Hanigan on the disabled list this season. The 27-year-old went into the All-Star break batting .455 (25 for 55), the highest first-half average ever in the majors, with a minimum of 50 at-bats.

Rodriguez opened the season on the disabled list with a knee injury, then posted an 8.59 ERA in six starts before being demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket. Boston believed Rodriguez was tipping his pitches and had him adjust his delivery during two starts in the minors.

Rodriguez threw 97 pitches Saturday, working quickly against New York’s veteran-heavy lineup.

Gardner ended a stretch of 180 homerless at-bats when he lined a solo shot into the Yankees’ bullpen in the third. It was his first homer since May 18 and sixth of the season.

“I definitely need to drive the ball a little bit better on a more consistent basis here in the second half,” Gardner said.

Headley hit a solo homer in the eighth for the Yankees against Matt Barnes.

A-ROD IN LINEUP

Alex Rodriguez is expected to start for the third straight game Sunday night when the Yankees face left-hander David Price. It’s been a rare chance at consistent playing time lately for the 40-year-old, who is batting .218 with eight homers in 193 at-bats this season. Rodriguez was 0 for 3 with a walk Saturday and is 1 for 7 in the series.

UP NEXT

Price (9-6, 4.34 ERA) pitches for Boston at Yankee Stadium following three straight games with exactly 10 strikeouts and one walk. He leads the AL with 140 strikeouts, most by a Red Sox left-hander before the All-Star break. Masahiro Tanaka (6-2, 3.23) is coming off six days of rest after allowing a season-high seven runs (three earned) in an 11-7 win against Cleveland.

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